As summer draws to a close, many of us wait in anticipation of the fall foliage season. It is a brief, but stunning spectacle that welcomes the crisper, cooler air. Complete with crimson reds, burnt oranges, and golden yellows, autumn dazzles us with enchanting displays of color. While the timing of this pageantry is rather unpredictable, there are select places in the Northeast that never miss a show.
1. Moosehead Lake/Highlands Region, Maine
Referred to as the gateway to Maine’s North Woods, the Moosehead Lake and Highlands region is cherished by outdoor adventurers and nature enthusiasts. The vast wilderness provides a perfect location for hiking, biking, kayaking/canoeing, whitewater rafting, and wildlife viewing. Combined with the brilliant hues of autumn, it is every nature lover’s dream. Join a wildlife safari to observe the elusive moose, or book a ride on a scenic floatplane for a bird’s eye view of Moosehead Lake, the largest mountain lake in the east, and the famed Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
2. The Adirondack Mountains, New York
Larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon and the Great Smokies National Parks combined, the Adirondack Park is home to many picturesque lakes, waterways, and mountains. The Lake Placid Region of this “forever wild” preserve offers captivating views of the Adirondack High Peaks and access to endless outdoor activities. Book a room at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort and enjoy a gondola cruise on Mirror Lake. Elevate yourself on the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway for jaw-dropping views from the mountain summit. Take pleasure in a leisurely stroll along the High Falls Gorge, or challenge yourself to hike some of the 2,000 miles of maintained trails within the park.
3. The Hudson Valley, New York
Sprinkled with historic sites, wineries, and cultural hotspots, the Hudson Valley is a remarkable region for experiencing peak foliage. A favorite of many is the Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre sculpture park featuring more than 100 artworks, each complementing the unique landscape. Escape to the Mohonk Mountain House for a luxurious weekend, or visit as a day guest to experience the trails and other resort activities including horseback riding, mountain biking, or rock climbing along the Shawangunk Ridge. For a more relaxing excursion, take a cruise on the Hudson River, during which you will pass mountain hillsides and gorgeous waterfront properties blanketed in autumnal hues.
4. Burlington, Vermont
Those wanting to experience the fall colors in an eco-friendly city atmosphere, will find Burlington to be a choice destination. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, this college town also offers a degree of sophistication with world-class dining, shopping, and entertainment. Book a stay at Hotel Vermont, and you’ll be given complimentary access to bicycles with your accommodation. Explore the many bikeways along Lake Champlain and discover waterfront parks, quaint villages, and various cultural sites. Peruse the tree-lined outdoor shopping area of the Church Street Marketplace, and complete the day dining outdoors at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants or local microbreweries.
5. The Catskill Mountains, New York
It is no wonder that so many of the Hudson River School painters explored the Catskills wilderness for painting inspiration. Located about 100 miles from New York City, it is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the everyday. Draped in fall colors, the landscape really comes alive. Visitors can enjoy scenic drives to marvel the quaint villages, farmland, and winding woodsy roads. There is also an array of hiking options. Make your way down the mile-long trail to the two-tiered Kaaterskill Falls, or the more adventurous can follow the escarpment trail east of North-South Lake for incredible vistas at Artist Rock, Newman’s Ledge, North Point, and the former site of the Catskill Mountain House.
6. Stowe, Vermont
Make the most of a long weekend of leaf-peeping by jetting directly to Stowe, Vermont from Westchester County, New York aboard Tradewind Aviation. As you catch a preview of the seasonal color palette flying high above the trees, you will be inspired to hit the ground running once you arrive. Let the Gondola Skyride or the Mount Mansfield Auto Toll Road at Stowe Mountain Resort whisk you near the top of Vermont’s highest peak where you can further explore the sights and summit on the nearby hiking trails. Once you have enjoyed the foliage from higher altitudes, make your way downtown to taste the popular Heady Topper IPA at Alchemist Brewery.
7. Acadia National Park, Maine
Known for its classic views of rocky coastlines and mountain vistas, Acadia National Park is truly something to marvel, and unbeknownst to some, it is even more spectacular in the fall. As the cooler air settles in, many family vacationers return to their homes, and the park carries an entirely different feel. Enjoy some of the more popular attractions and observation points such as the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs sans the crowds. You will also appreciate the quiet on the 120 miles of hiking trails and the 55 miles of carriage roads found throughout the preserve. Despite the seeming solitude, however, you should plan to drive (or hike!) to the top of Cadillac Mountain well before dawn if you are hoping to have that mountain to yourself.
8. The Berkshires, Massachusetts
The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts include a number of charming historic towns and artsy communities tucked between rolling hills and farmland, and in the autumn, the countryside absolutely flourishes with color. You will want to begin your tour of the vibrant rural landscape with a drive to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest peak of the Taconic Mountains, for a striking view of the valley. Afterward, follow along the Mohawk Trail, one of the state’s scenic byways, making time to stop and enjoy the sights and attractions along the way. For another source of visual stimulation, check out Mass MoCA, the largest contemporary art center in the county. Time your visit to North Adams for the first weekend of October, and you can revel in the Fall Foliage Festival and Parade.
9. Lincoln, New Hampshire
Located in a mountain pass deep in the White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Notch State Park offers a tranquil fall hideaway. Start your escape with a jaunt up to Artists Bluff for a panoramic view overlooking Echo Lake. If you are up for a considerably more challenging hike, devote a day to climbing the Franconia Ridge. You will be rewarded with some of the most phenomenal views in all of New England as you traverse several mountains tops. Those longing for some fresh air and leaf peeping without all the physical exertion can catch a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, or meander through the picturesque Flume Gorge, which provides an up-close look at waterfalls and covered bridges in an idyllic autumn setting. Venture outside the town of Lincoln to the 34.5-mile Kancamagus Highway, a historic scenic byway offering breathtaking views of the White Mountain region.
10. Litchfield Hills, Connecticut
A southern extension of the Berkshire Mountains, Litchfield Hills offers opportunities for outdoor recreation in addition to a small town New England experience. Enjoy a relaxing drive along Route 7, and stroll through the towns of Kent, Cornwall Bridge, and Litchfield for picturesque views of steepled churches, covered bridges and village greens. For a one-of-a-kind view of the foliage in the area, book an hour ride in a hot air balloon. If heights are not your thing, leaf-peep at farms, fields, and vineyards along the Connecticut Wine Trail.
11. Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Rich in its history, architecture, and acclaim, the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods is a favorite luxury destination of presidents, poets, and celebrities. Situated between hillsides of exquisite fall color, it is no wonder this gem continues to amaze. Guests can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities with a foliage-filled backdrop including a canopy tour, horseback riding, hiking, tennis, or a round of golf on an award-winning course. Make your way to the top of nearby Mount Washington by cog railway or the auto road for the most magnificent view of the surrounding landscape.